• The estimates vary widely - Any answer to this question should be taken with several grains of salt. Digital computers and brains don't work the same way. For one thing, every memory location in a computer is created equal. You can move stuff from one location to another without losing any information. In the brain, on the other hand, certain cells specialize in certain jobs. While there is considerable plasticity (the ability to change what some part of the brain does, enabling the brain to recover from injury), there's nothing like the uniformity seen in a computer. Secondly, processing and memory are completely separated in a computer; not so in the brain. Finally, data in computers is digital, and not really susceptible to "noise". In the brain, there are continuous voltages. With those caveats, let's look at numbers. The brain contains 10^11 neurons -- in other words, 100 Giganeurons. Each one has synapses connecting it to up to 1000 other neurons. Many researchers believe that memories are stored as patterns of synapse strengths. If we suppose that the strength of each synapse can take on any of 256 values, then each synapse corresponds to a byte of memory. This gives a total of (very roughly) 100 terabytes for the brain. Robert Birge (Syracuse University) who studies the storage of data in proteins, estimated in 1996 that the memory capacity of the brain was between one and ten terabytes, with a most likely value of 3 terabytes. Such estimates are generally based on counting neurons and assuming each neuron holds 1 bit. Bear in mind that the brain has better algorithms for compressing certain types of information than computers do.

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